C.J. Stroud to start at QB in Texans' preseason opener vs. Patriots

C.J. Stroud will reach the next checkpoint on his road to becoming Houston’s franchise quarterback this Thursday.

Stroud will start in the Texans’ preseason opener at New England, Houston head coach DeMeco Ryans told NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Jane Slater on Inside Training Camp Live.

Stroud’s ascension to starter hasn’t been as smooth and preordained as his draft counterpart, Bryce Young, experienced in Carolina. Stroud has yet to be named the team’s No. 1 quarterback, and continues to work alongside Davis Mills in an attempt to both demonstrate visible progress and ultimately win the job.

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Ryans spoke positively of Stroud over the weekend, noting the No. 2 overall pick “continues to improve and that’s good to see.”

Now, of course, comes the first real test in a live, full-speed game environment.

“That’s when you can really judge on where a guy is based on game situations,” Ryans said Saturday of evaluating Stroud. “Practice is one thing, but guys have to get out and get the real competition in a game.”

Unfortunately for both Stroud and Mills, neither will have a key blocker available on Thursday and for the foreseeable future. Right tackle Tytus Howard suffered a broken hand and had surgery to repair it on Monday, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Pelissero reported. Howard will be out “a while,” Ryans said prior to the news of Howard’s surgery, leaving Stroud with one fewer reliable blocker as he begins his NFL journey.

The only question that remains as Houston approaches its preseason opener: How long will Stroud play?

New York only gave third-year QB Zach Wilson a quarter in the Hall of Fame Game last week, and there’s no competition under center for the Jets. Could Stroud and Mills split halves? Will veteran Case Keenum end up filling the Tim Boyle role for Houston this week?

We’ll find out Thursday, when the Ryans era begins with Stroud as his top QB.

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